BUDAPEST (AFP) – The head of the European Parliament’s dominant centre-right bloc met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday, again calling for the populist leader to apologise for an anti-European Union (EU) billboard campaign.
Manfred Weber of the European People’s Party (EPP) visited Budapest to discuss a rift with Orban’s Fidesz party that has become an issue for the EPP ahead of European Parliament elections in May.
“We had talks in a constructive atmosphere, but problems are not yet solved,” Weber told reporters.
Weber is the EPP’s leading candidate to take over as President of the European Commission later this year, but his campaign has been overshadowed by Orban’s strident attacks on the Commission’s current head Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as on the European institutions themselves.
The EPP, and Weber, have faced mounting calls to expel Orban from the group, with many arguing his authoritarian tendencies run counter to European values.
Last week Weber set Orban an ultimatum if he wanted Fidesz to avoid being expelled from the group.
He called on Orban to stop his government’s anti-EU campaign, let the CEU university founded by the liberal Untied States-Hungarian billionaire George Soros stay in Budapest, and apologise to other member parties of the EPP.
“The EPP has clear fundamental values and these are not negligible for us,” Weber said on Tuesday.
“They have to be respected by all EPP party members and also by Fidesz.”
Weber also singled out a campaign in Hungary targetting Juncker – an EPP member – accusing him of backing illegal migration alongside with Soros.
“We don’t allow any further any anti-Brussels, anti-EU posters and campaigning here in Budapest, the posters must be replaced,” Weber said.
Some posters in Budapest featuring Juncker were covered for Weber’s visit.
“It would be a good way to work together if Viktor Orban would apologise for the burden and the problems he was creating for other EPP parties and countries.”
A dozen EPP parties have called for Fidesz to be kicked out, a topic which will be discussed by members at a meeting on March 20.
Orban said last Friday that Fidesz could opt to leave the EPP and seek to join up with Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party in the European Parliament.